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BP Exploration Company, Colombia


In July 2005 a group of Colombian farmers instituted proceedings in the English High Court against BP Exploration Company (Colombia) alleging that the construction of an oil pipeline by OCENSA (a consortium led by BP) caused severe environmental damage to their lands. In particular, the farmers claimed that the pipeline cut across key water sources which resulted in soil erosion, spoiled crops and fish ponds being starved of water. Further, they alleged that BP, while not directly involved, benefited from the activities of paramilitaries employed to guard the pipeline. The farmers argued that the paramilitaries intimidated the local population, obstructed farming and suppressed legitimate opposition to the pipeline. The farmers claimed that the combined effect of these factors was the destruction of their way of life leading to destitution for them and their families. The farmers asked for £15 million in compensation.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:BP Exploration Company, Colombia
Accuracy of locationLOW (Country level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Oil and gas exploration and extraction
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Specific commodities:Crude oil
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Type of populationRural
Company names or state enterprises:BP Exploration Company from Colombia
OCENSA - a consortium led by BP
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLATENT (no visible organising at the moment)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Forms of mobilization:Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil erosion, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Violations of human rights
Potential: Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Under negotiation
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:BP argued it had already made compensatory payments to the farmers and that, in any event, any lawsuit against BP should be in Colombia. Lawyers for the farmers countered that many had not received payments and those that had, had not received adequate payments. Many farmers claimed they were forced to sign agreements that they could not understand. Further, the plaintiffs argued it was necessary to bring proceedings in London because Colombian lawyers who had become involved in the case had been harassed and threatened.
In June 2006 BP and the farmers met for mediation in Bogotá. On 22 July 2006 the parties announced that a settlement had been reached. The parties did not disclose the terms and amounts paid. However, in a joint statement they did announce that BP, without admitting liability, had agreed to establish an Environmental and Social Improvement Trust Fund for the benefit of the farmers, together with a programme of workshops dealing with environmental management and business development. According to press reports, the amount paid by BP was not thought to be as high as the £15 million originally claimed, but was believed to run to several million pounds.
In December 2008, Particulars of Claim were filed with the English High Court by a Colombian farmer living in the Zaragoza-Caceri region of Colombia claiming he suffered serious environmental damage to his land as a result of the construction of the OCENSA pipeline. This claimant is part of a group litigation (the group litigation order was issued on 24 September 2008), and his claims are representative of the claims of the group. This group of individuals was not part of the 2006 settlement with BP. This group litigation is on-going.
Sources & Materials

BHR Country profile, Colombia and BP lawsuit
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Meta information
Contributor:Irene Pietropaoli
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:835
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